Issue 43 –
The Top Ten Challenges to Relationship:
Keeping Your Love Alive Amid Life’s Routines
Other Relationships in Fact and Fantasy
There was a period in the late 1960s and early 1970s when people realized that they could not expect a single romantic or sexual relationship to meet all their needs. This was a reaction against earlier over idealized expectations of marriages “made in heaven” and dreams of “happily ever after” when all that was needed was one Cinderella and one Prince Charming. It was a time of cultural revolution during which there was a good deal of experimentation with extramarital relationships and deep extramarital friendships.
Quite often this worked beautifully for a while. Each partner felt more alive and fulfilled. They brought back new energy to the primary relationship and the linkage between the partners intensified. But what we noticed during those years was that, sooner or later, the linkage between the partners began to dissipate as the linkage to outsiders increased in intensity. Most of the time the primary linkage finally shifted from the partner to someone else.
As normal, ordinary human beings, we can expect to feel attractions to people other than our partners. This is totally natural. It just means that we are alive and that our hormones are functioning properly . There is a great deal to be learned from these attractions if we do not panic about them or feel too guilty.
There was definitely a kernel of truth in the thinking of the sixties and seventies. One person does not hold everything; therefore one relationship cannot hold everything. We have our primary selves and we have our disowned selves. In our relationships there are selves that are acceptable or primary and others that both partners disown.
If you think about what we said earlier regarding disowned selves (see chapter 2), you get the picture of what happens in relationship. Our disowned selves, and the disowned selves of our partners, are the selves that we find fascinating in others. These are the selves that exert the fatal attractions that cause us to drop the linkage to our partners and develop a primary linkage elsewhere . This linkage does not have to become sexual in order to challenge the relationship. It just needs to be primary.
Sometimes this is not even a linkage to an actual person, sexual or otherwise. Sometimes it is a preoccupation with a fantasy. One of the partners develops a strong fantasy life and disappears into it. This can be a fantasy about another person, about an imagined person, or a fantasy about a different kind of life. The primary linkage shifts from the relationship or the partnering to this fantasy or this fantasy character. For some people, this can be as strong an involvement as an involvement with another person and it can disrupt the linkage between partners as much as an actual affair. Just as in an actual affair, the primary linkage has been shifted. Here, the primary linkage is to the fantasy rather than to the partner. Where does this linkage go? Just as in an affair or an attraction, the linkage is always to a person or a situation that is carrying a disowned self.
What can be done to reestablish the linkage within the partnership? If you follow our thinking, look for the disowned selves that are operating. What is it that is irresistible about this person who is not your partner? Where does this person carry either your disowned self or that of your partner? You can actually use this attraction as a teacher and either you or your partner can claim the disowned self so that this irresistible attraction becomes more resistible and your primary linkage returns to the relationship.
What does this look like? Perhaps you and your partner have become rather complacent and predictable. Your routine is safe and comfortable because each of you has disowned your spontaneity and wildness. We might expect that someone who is more spontaneous or unpredictable would be very attractive to one or both of you. If you take this attraction as a sign that you need a bit of fresh air and that your lives need a bit of change, you may be able to incorporate this change into your relationship rather than changing relationships.
These missing pieces that we find irresistible in others can be almost anything. Each of us is different. The person who carries this attraction can be a rebel or a conservative, sexual or proper, a professional or a homebody, fiscally responsible or fiscally impulsive, cautious or spontaneous, thoughtful or selfish, powerful or sensitive, passionate or cool, sophisticated or simple. The list goes on forever, but we just wanted to give you a picture of the variety of possibilities.
Think of the people in your life who exert a fascination over you and who pull your energetic linkage toward themselves and away from your partner. What is it that they carry that is missing in you, your partner, or the relationship? How might you bring more balance into your life and into your relationship by including some of this missing energy?